Sunday, December 31, 2006


I can not believe that 2006 is winding down. I can't believe that I have been posting on this blog for nearly a year. I've wandered back through various posts, and found yet another good use for a blog: capturing memories.

Some of the highlights of this year has been:
  • Burglar Alarm 2oth Anniversary screening: This was the first time that I had gotten together with Todd, Jay, Rick and George in many, many years. Unfortunately, as we discovered, there is no brunch on the Vista, but IHOP is just around the corner.
  • Birthday Star Wars Marathon: A full day of Star Wars, I - VI, what more could I have asked for?
  • 20 Year High School Reunion: The actual reunion was not as much fun as the pre-reunion. At the reunion, I ran in Maria, who, as it turns out, I have known since Kindergarten. Also, my Youth Group buddy Stacie was there. Jeff B is now a teacher (that really blew me away). The Pre-reunion get together was priceless, and I hope we do not wait another 10 years to do that.
  • Corolla Retreat: Got the chance to go down to Corolla, NC for the night. It was the first time in a long time that I can remember being away from the girls. And, they survived.
  • Discipleship Study: Started and completed a discipleship study with Mr. Heath. What an awesome guy, with lots of insight. I can only hope that I can have that much insight one day.
  • Buffalo Trip: I really had a good trip to Buffalo. Including getting lost, buying a GPS and Roller Blading at the middle school.
  • Total Money Makeover: Potentially one of the biggest impacts in my life this year was my discover of Dave Ramsey. He kicked my butt, and got me thinking straight about how I have been wasting money.
2006 has been a good year for me. I hope that 2007 continues the trend.

Friday, December 29, 2006


Have you seen this new game console from Nintendo called Wii? It differentiates itself with it's controllers that allow you to interact with the games by using "natural" motions. The brilliance behind this form of interaction is that it opens Gaming up for traditionally non gamers. For example, the console comes with "Wii Sports," a collection of games including golf, tennis, baseball, bowling and boxing. You can use the same range of motions with your controller as you would with, say, a tennis racket (backhand, forehand, topspin, etc).

However, there is a dark side. The controllers must be attached to your arm via a wrist strap. Already, a recall has been made on the initial straps. And, if you are too manly to wear the strap, then dozens of cases have been documented on the Wiitatraphies that have occurred (including, but not limited to, busted televisions and finger cuts).

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Crown Me!

A few weeks ago, while enjoying a Firehouse Sub, I broke a tooth that had a hairline fracture for years. Fortunately, the angle of the break was clean, and I did not need to fiddle with wax to try and plug the hole. Today is the day that I go to have the tooth crowned. I am not looking forward to this, as a previous trip still lies darkly with me.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Review: Rocky Balboa

My introduction to Rocky was Rocky III, the Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan of the series. Unfortunately, it was followed up by two films that were not memorable. Rocky IV was a example of 80's Cold War fiction, pitting Rocky against a huge Russian ("I will break you"). I have completely forgotten the plot of Rocky V, except I thought Rocky had a heart problem. But forget about those two. It was Rocky and Rocky II that defined the soul of the boxer, his drive and his character. Add to those first two films Rocky Balboa.

You might think that you are going to see a "fight film." You would be wrong. In fact, there is only one fight in the whole film. But, this film is not about the fight, and it does not follow the typical formula. The formula where Rocky has a fight, loses the fight, training montage (powered by a Survivor soundtrack) and then the final fight, where, in the final seconds of the final round, Rocky wins. Rather, this movie is a heavy character piece, which was completely unexpected. And I think that is what I liked most about the film: I am more interested in Rocky as a man rather than Rocky as a boxing legend.

As a side note, Rocky owns a restaurant, and this reminded me of Ilio DiPaolo's restaurant in Buffalo. I've only been there once before Ilio died, but I had heard that Ilio, like Rocky, would visit with his guest, sharing stories of the ring.

Rocky Balboa: ***+
Theater Worthy and Approved.

Back to Work

I have enjoyed my five day "mini-vacation," but all good things must come to an end. Yesterday, my parents left and my in-laws arrived. This all took place in a matter of hours, and represents the quickest turn around for us on record. Here is a list of all the things I can look forward to this week:
  1. Abbreviated work week
  2. Mexican Dinner with Small Group
  3. Visiting the Dentist to get a tooth capped
  4. Early Release on Friday
  5. Liberty Bowl

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Day After

Right after the Christmas feast, I put Scrooge into the DVD player. This has to be my favorite musical and my favorite screen version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

So...for all of the wonderful gifts received this year, I can only say:

Thank you very much!
Thank you very much!
That's the nicest thing that anyone's ever done for me
I may sound Double-Dutch
But my delight is such
I feel as if a losing war's been won for me
And if I had a flag I'd hang my flag out
To add a sort of final victory touch
But since I left my flag at home
I'll simply have to say
Thank you very, very, very much!

Monday, December 25, 2006


After a morning full of beef stick, cheese ball, peanuts, crackers and a full on Christmas dinner with Turkey and Ham, I am full.

Off to put in Scrooge and enjoy the next two hours on my back.

Twas the Night before...Wait, it's 3AM!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Katie and Megan woke up at 3:00 this morning and could not be convinced to go back to sleep. They didn't "Sneak and Peak" this year, but waited patiently until 6:00. Thankfully, the Big Guy made it here after all, and all of their wishes came true.

Katie's big item was a "Fur Real" Butterscotch Pony. This toy is really cool! He snorts, neighs and eats. Along with the Pony, she got a "Lead Rope" and a tack box to keep the Pony nice and clean.

Megan received a "Pet Shop" for her little "Pets," a CD Player (she wore her other one out) and a "Fur Real" Monkey (again, another really cool toy). Santa revealed that the Pony and the Monkey were best friends and it just did not seem right for them to be parted.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

And now, for something completely different.

I heard something on the Dave Ramsey show the other day and would like to share. It is a one of his "financial myths": Why would I ever want to pay off my home mortgage when I get such a great tax return from the government?

For the scenario, to keep all the math simple (besides, this was his scenario), let's make these assumptions:

Mortgage Amount: $200,000
Interest Rate: 5%
Annual Salary: $70,000

At 5%, the amount of interest that you would pay to the bank is $10,000. Since this interest is tax deductible, you do not pay taxes on 70k, but $60,000.

Now consider that you do not have a mortgage. Since you did not pay $10,000 to the bank, your taxable income remains at $70,000. How much would you pay in taxes to Uncle Sam on that $10,000? At 70k, you are in the 25% tax bracket. 25% of $10,000 is $2,500.

So, some might have you believe that it is better to send $10,000 to the bank in interest to avoid sending $2,500 in taxes to the government.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

Guys...if you take my advice given earlier about "pre-shopping" online, make sure you look for the "online only" tags. Needless to say, my plans got shot down early on, and I did wander aimlessly throughout Greenbrier Mall. However, I had already cemented in my cranium the "theme" and I believe that I found gifts that are absolutely perfect for Cindy. 

Twas The Week Before Christmas...

When it comes to giving Christmas gifts, I do not like shopping for my wife using a list. For me, the list seems to start way back in September when I get questions from my mom, "so, make sure you let me know what Cindy wants for Christmas." When we were younger, I use to disguise the fact that I was collecting items for a list. Fast forward fourteen years, and it is almost blunt to the point of flat our asking.

The list is a safety net. I am not as worried about getting her a gift that she wants as much as I am about getting her a gift that she simply does not like. That fear starts to drive me towards simplicity, which might be reflected in the form of a gift card, or worse, cash. That way, she can get what she wants, right? Each December, I stand, like a deer caught in the headlights, frozen by fear that my gift will be rejected.

But, that misses the point of giving a gift.

This year, I am ditching the list, and I am trying a new approach, a set of guidelines.

1. No Clothing - I must remember that I have the worst taste in clothing. If you catch me wearing something that looks decent, just remember, my wife picked that out. Clothing is a sure fire way to having a gift returned.

2. Bath and Body Works - This year, I pledge not to buy anything from this store. Not that there is anything wrong with this store, but just give it a rest this year.

3. No Yankee Candles - This is similar to the B&BW above. I love Yankee Candles, but, this perennial gift will not make it under the tree this year.

4. Prepare before Shopping - Here is where I usually fail. I drive to the local mall and wandering into and out of stores looking for Christmas Inspiration (which usually ends up with a trip to Bath and Body Works and an Ice Cream from Kohr's Brothers). I feel like a zombie from the Romero movie and I loose all focus. Each of the anchor stores have an online store. This year, I will "wander" the virtual stores in the comfort of my own home.

5. Durability and Usability - A gift needs to pass the D&U test. Many gifts that are neither Durable or Usable become items that collect dust. This is not to say that the gift has to be utilitarian in nature, it just means that I am not going to buy something that I know is junk from Bed Bath and Beyond.

6. Appeal to her inner Child - When it comes to Christmas, everyone wants to feel like a kid again. Sure, the food processor is neat, but, a board game that brings everyone away from the TV is a whole lot neater.

7. Who is She - This guideline can really paralyze a guy: he will get caught up trying to find that gift that screams "My Wife's Name" that he does something stupid (like buying a mop or a car). My wife is a natural entertainer. Whether it is with her Violin or as a host, she really sparkles when she entertains. Just think about what causes your wife to Sparkle and there she is.

8. Non-Tangible Gifts - This guideline is for the big day itself. I think Christmas day is best spent in sweat pants and t-shirts, but my wife likes to dress up. While I like to sit down and play with the Kid's Toys, watch a movie, play video games or eat tons of cheese and summer sausage, Cindy is preparing the Christmas Feast.

Guys, here is a secret that fourteen years of marriage has taught me. It is a powerful tool, so use it wisely. It is sure fire, and never once has it failed me. These four simple words could turn out being the best gift of the year. Through out the day, come up to your spouse, look her in the eyes and speak, so that only the two of you can hear, these words: "How can I help?"

There you have it. These are my guidelines for this year. Odd that it looks sorta like a list, and doesn't replace the fact that I have had two Fridays off and it is one week before Christmas and I still have not gone out to shop. But, I spent yesterday preparing and I think I have several ideas to choose from.

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Redeeming Netflix Flaps

So far, I have redeemed four Netflix Flaps at Blockbuster. Try saying NetFlix Flaps four times fast.

Flap 1: Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Actually, I went for Three Amigos because I needed something that was both Dumb and Funny. The young man at the counter informed me they no longer carried it for rent, but, I could purchase the film. Of course, that would have defeated that whole "free" theme I was going for by using the Netflix Flaps. I had not seen PTA in many years, and it fit 1/2 of the bill just fine: Funny.

Flap 2: Office Space: Cindy has never seen this movie. Her response was very much the same as she usually has after reading a Dilbert comic. Which is to say, although she appreciates that I find it funny, for her...not so much.

Flap 3: Superman Returns: I still like this film. I appreciate the corny references to the original film. I like how they scale Supes up to items that are much larger than himself to display his power. I did not like the whole Kid thread.

Flap 4: Elf: I am sure that if there were to be a current day equivalent to A Christmas Story this would not be it. However, except for the last fifteen minutes of this film, I still laughed it up.

So, I have one flap left. I have considered renting Rocky, but, I am not sure.

Mad Ibexes

This morning, my daughter Katie was watching me play Battlefield 2142. My Team as backed up against the wall, I was just trying to make a desperate attempt to grab a back flag. I hopped into a jeep and speed to a location as far away as possible. Just as I was about to get into a more "durable" vehicle, my computer locked up.

Katie patted me on the shoulder and offered these words of comfort:

"Dad, don't worry that happens to me from time to time. Once, I was playing Zoo Tycoon and I had a pen with two Ibexes. I accidentally hit the moon button on the keyboard. Later, I came back later, and I had a pen full of angry Ibexes."

Playing Church

This week, I used the phrase "playing church" when someone described how one of their relatives bounced between the Catholic and Lutheran church. Inside, it made me smile, because, just that morning, I had been reading about Luther and Calvin. I am sure that if the relative had a historical perspective, then they might also see how odd those choices are. However, I just made the comment that they are simply "playing church."

Matthew 3:12, the John the Baptist describes a threshing room floor, covered with wheat and all the bits of that has fallen of the wheat stalks. In this picture, Jesus is standing in the threshing room and is holding a fan that is causing the wheat and the chaff to separate. The wheat is gathered and placed inside the grainery and the chaff is burned away.

Just so that we are clear on the symbolism here: The floor is the church and only two kinds of people go to church - Wheat People and Chaff People. Chaff People think they are good with God because they go to church, live decent lives and are good citizens. However, one day, the Wheat People will be physically separated from the Chaff People.

Many times, I feel that I am eternally secure because I belong to a church. Odd that I would think that, eh? It's not a conscious thing that I think, but, my actions tell on me. You see, I have gotten the horse before the cart so to speak. My focus has shifted ever so slightly from Jesus over to a building. It seems natural: I do not physically see Jesus day to day, but, I see my church several times a week. My mind becomes focused on the here and now. My mind becomes focused on the work. And sometimes, I just go on auto-pilot. I show up, pull out my trombone and just play. No worship, just notes, intonation and rhythms. So, who is playing church now?

Ga 6:9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Redeem Netflix Flaps for Blockbuster Movies

I saw this last week, but forgot to post. If you are a Netflix subscriber, you can take the flap of your Netflix Mailer (the part you throw away) and redeem it for a movie rental at Blockbuster video. This offer is good through 12/21/2006.

Netflix subscribers who wish to participate in the program can tear off the address flaps they normally discard when mailing back their DVDs and turn them in at any participating Blockbuster store to receive a free in-store movie rental. They can continue to bring in their envelope flaps and exchange them for free in-store rentals for the duration of the promotion. Netflix customers do not need to subscribe to Blockbuster's online program to participate. To utilize the free store rentals, Netflix customers do need to have a Blockbuster store membership, which they can sign up for on the spot. Store membership is free.

So, go out and get that free movie...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Me and My Gal

All dressed up and ready for the Christmas Party! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


For years, I have always budgeted money to pay bills, but, there was that part of my income that always seemed to disappear in the nebulous "Miscellaneous" category. I have played a game of see-saw with my credit card by running it up and paying it down, running it up and paying it down.

That's when I discovered a radio talk show host named Dave Ramsey and his "Total Money Makeover" Book. There is absolutely no "get rich quick" scheme, but, he doles out a hefty amount of common sense. He draws on his experience of having gone bankrupt to tell you the things that we do that lead down that road.

The Total Money Makeover is divided into a series of Baby Steps.

  • Step 1 : get a $1000 emergency fund. Stop using credit.
  • Step 2 : pay off all of your debts, except for your mortgage. Pay off the smallest first while paying minimum on the remaining. As you pay off one debt, start tackling the next. If you have to use your emergency fund, stop BS2 and go back to BS1.
  • Step 3 : Fully Fund your emergency fund to 3 to 6 month of expenses (not income).
  • Step 4 : Invest 15% to retirements. Earlier, he has suggested that you stop all investments until you get to this step. The most important tool you have to getting out of debt is your income, and you are going to need all of it to get back to this step.
  • Step 5 : Invest in your kids college fund
  • Step 6 : Pay off your Mortgage

Printed at the bottom of each page is the quote "Live like no one else so that later you can live like no one else." December makes the second month that Cindy and I have allocated every dollar in my take home pay to a category. We ended up in November with a budget surplus (which went to Chase Manhattan) because we did not spend everything we had categorized.

Also, there is the angle about being a good steward of the money that God has given to us. I don't consider myself a steward of 10% of my income, but rather all of it. I am learning some common sense skills about money that is helping me to be a better steward. In turn, I am turning into a better giver.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Nativity

Aint it Cool News posted their review of The Nativity. The movie was panned, commenting that most Christian movies are generally bad. In the past few years, I have seen several "Christian" films including Left Behind, The Passion of the Christ, End of the Spear, Luther and most recently Facing the Giants. Of those films, I thought that Left Behind was pretty bad, Passion of the Christ overrated. However, Luther, End of the Spear and Facing the Giants were very enjoyable, and had very real applications to my Christian walk.

End of the Spear showed me a picture of what it is like to truly forgive another person. We speak about how God forgives us but when it comes to us forgiving other people, we tend to not model our God. Forgiveness isn't always easy, and End of the Spear uses an extreme situation to make this point. Is the acting the best? No. Is the cinematography academy award winning? No, but the story is fantastic.

Luther was incredible because I had never really connected all of the dots to how important translating the Bible from Latin to a common tongue (in this case, German) was in Church History.

Facing the Giants is another movie that made it to the local cineplex, but still felt like one of the New Line pictures from the eighties. However, like Spear, the story is honest. It also takes an extreme situation and shows God at work. Sure, on one hand it is convenient that everything works out ok (this doesn't happen too much for me), but it drives home the point: nothing is too big for God. Also, the film makes heavy use of non-actors. Sometimes this is painfully obvious, but once I got past that, I really believed them.

Finally, Passion of the Christ. Most of the "Talk Backers" on Aint it Cool News site held this film as the "Gold Standard" in "Christian" movie making. Others called it a snuff film. I thought that, while it contained some very powerful images, and made the crucifixion real, it was overrated. I have tried to watch it again, but have never made it through.

So, if you are so inclined to, throw these movies on your Netflix queue. Pop some corn, get the beverage of your choice and enjoy.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


For some reason, lately, I have been waking up around four in the morning. I wonder if, perhaps, I am in a suspense movie wherein the main character wakes up at the same time just prior to some horrific event.

Or, it could be LJ's fault for getting me hooked onto "A Song of Ice and Fire," George R. R. Martin's Epic fantasy that when all is said and done will span seven books. I have just finished "A Game of Thrones" and am almost two hundred pages into the second. Personally, I think LJ knew I needed something other than .NET periodicals to read in my free time, and I appreciate that. I find myself grabbing the book to find out what happens next.

Maybe, my restlessness is caused by worries at work. As my company has grown, I have been given more "manager-like" duties. I feel responsible for more projects and employees and consultants than I ever have before (besides my days Assistant Managing at the Ye Olde Blockbuster). Even though this may be cliche, the hardest part is delegating. I never understood why it would be so hard until now: it's like admitting you can not do a task, not because it is hard, but, because you no longer have as much time to devote to that task.

However, I think that the reason I woke up so early this morning was due to the shipment from Coffee Whiz that I received yesterday. My shipment included Mocha Java, Winter Carnival, Perfectly Pumpkin, German Chocolate Cake and Holiday Blend. Last night, I had a cup of Winter Carnival, perhaps not a good idea. I have just finished a cup of German Chocolate Cake and am enjoying the slight aftertaste of coconut. I am spoiling myself with the Keuring K-cup system.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Almost Turkey Day

Well, after some of the more serious topic post of late, it is time to turn onto one of my favorite holidays of the year: Thanksgiving. For the past six years, the Gang and I hop into the car and travel down to spend Wednesday night and Thanksgiving Day with my Grandmother Morton in Myrtle Beach, SC. My Grandmother's house is the same house that her dad and brothers built way back in 19**. She will never tell me the exact date. Hmm. Mom and Dad join us on the big day. Between Parades, Football, Eating and Uno marathons, Cindy and I let our belts out a notch and go catch a movie down in Myrtle Beach. I think this year, I might give up and just wear sweats. I would like to go see the new Bond flick, but Cindy is leading more towards "Stranger than Fiction." On Friday, we cross over to Columbia and on Saturday we take a day trip over to Evans Georgia to visit my Grandmother Bryan. Hopefully, I will be able to catch some of the Carolina - Clemson game. It would be great to close the season with a win. We have come soooo close against big teams. We need to win this one. Finally, on Sunday, we repack the car and head back to Chesapeake.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Who Me?

I was asked my opinion about a pastor's secret life which had recently been exposed. I was not familiar with all of the details, but we tossed the topic back and fourth. The hardest question that we stumbled into was: does someone choose to be homosexual, or is it simply biological, perhaps even in the same manner that a person is heterosexual? My reflexive answer was "it's a choice," but something about that answer seemed too quick, too easy and maybe too patented. The real question should have been "does God consider homosexuality sinful?"

This question has to be approached with some care. Because if we were to agree that God views homosexuality as sinful, we then have to examine our own lives. Have we become comfortable with any habitual sin? Would parting with it be too hard? Does God have different categories of sin like a McDonald's value meal (small, medium, large and super size)? If so, then my sin definitely is not super sized! Perhaps we have reasoned that we can continue in our sin because God has promised to always forgive a Christian's sin (1 Jo 1:9; Ro 6:1)? Maybe we deceive ourselves into thinking that we simply just do not sin because we have Christ (1 Jo 1:8).

Shining the lights on others is easy. Focusing that same light back on us...well, perhaps not so much.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Rapture

I have to admit, that I find it difficult to keep the Rapture in the fore front of my mind. Christ spoke of his return some 2000 years ago, and we have been anticipating it ever since. I often feel as though I will be one of the "dead in Christ" at his return and will be called up to meet him in the air. I do not pray, like John, for him to come quickly. And, to tip my hat over to the Good Coffee site, my attitude reflects the way that I relate to those who are without Christ. If I had been given a date and a time, how much harder would I try? How fervent would my prayers be for my "lost" friends!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Has Anyone Seen My Netflix Disc?

I was really anticipating Disc 6 of the first season of House. Imagine my surprise when all that arrived in a hermetically sealed bag was the outer flap that you rip off and discard.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


I came across this trailer for the upcoming film Death of a President, which tells the story of the fictional assassination of the president Bush. I have learned quite a bit this year about my beliefs, be them about politics or about faith. I have learned that if I fundamentally disagree with a fictional account about how the second century church fabricated what we know today about Christianity I will be told "It's only Fiction!" This film tells me that, apparently, it is ok to take any current political figure and create a snuff film about their assassination. It is abhorrent to me, but possibly it is pure candy to others who so viciously hate a man they have never met. But remember, say it with me, "It's only Fiction!"

Censorship is not the answer. It should not have to be. There was a time when a film about the assassination of a standing president would be unacceptable. When I was in the Air Force, I believed that I could tell my superiors anything as long as I proceeded it with "With All Due Respect." Turns out, you can't. And in the same vein, just because you tell me it's fiction, does not mean I have to find it acceptable.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Boy, talk about the night you did not know was coming. After mowing the front lawn (oh, btw...the grass project is coming along great), I went up to take a shower. Megan and Cindy had left to go shopping, and Katie was downstairs. I was leaning over to pull my T-shirt off and started to straighten up. I must have done it too quickly because my arms was still pulling the shirt off as my head was coming up. Let's just say that the pain was intense. Three and a half hours later I am home from the hospital. It doesn't look like a pinched nerve, but a whole lot of muscle spasm going on. Either way, the medication is taking the edge off.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Like any good football game, our 20th high school reunion had it's tailgate party at the abode of Mr. and Mrs. Nicholson. I couldn't believe how many of us were able to attend: George, Alan, Rick, Jay, Chris, Todd and Robert. I really regret that I did not bring Cindy along with me. As part of her birthday presents, I took the kids with me to South Carolina and gave her a weekend off. But I missed sharing this part of my past with her. These guys were an important part of my life, and they stood beside when my sister died. We participated together in all night movie marathons, bad cigars and acts of teenage goofiness, lovingly referred to as ploys. It seems that the only thing that has really changed in the past twenty years is our age: we are basically the same personalities. I enjoyed meeting the guys' wives; I think everyone would have enjoyed meeting Cindy. Next time. Each one of us has, apparently, married way out of our league.

The main event, held at the Columbia Convention Center, was very well put together. Kudos to Mindy, Jeff and anyone else who was responsible for bringing it all together. My only suggestion for next time: pre-printed name tags - with the ladies' maiden name printed first (as that is how we knew them). As the night went on, I felt awkward trying to read names, because I had a real hard time recalling faces. But once I was able to connect the two together, they were transformed back twenty years, and memories of classes taken together came back.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


If you have lived in West Columbia, or in neighboring communities, you know all about Zestos in Triangle City. Today, I had the joy of passing it along to Katie and Megan. I enjoyed my chicken, and they had their hot dogs and, of course, ice cream cone. I had not been inside Zestos since I left Columbia in 1992, and it instantly brought back memories of high school. Sorta appropriate, as I am in Columbia today for my 20th High School reunion. Prior to the "official" gathering, many of my pals will be getting together for a social hour. This is going to be a blast.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Horsing Around

Katie, my nine year old, is absolutely in love with horses. She has been taking riding lessons, and, besides video games, this is something that she is serious about. When she started, I could not tell you the differences between a trot, a canter or a gallop, but I have come to appreciate the communication that goes on between horse and rider to switch into these different gears. Yesterday, Katie cantered for the first time. It was a big moment because the canter is the fastest gait that she has ridden. Her foot came out of the stirrup when she transitioned back to the trot, and she slid out of the saddle, but she landed on both feet. She gave a big hi-five and a smile to her trainer, Ms. Sara Lee. Way to go, Idaho!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Settling for Mediocrity

"I don't think we need to settle for being a mediocre bunch, although at times we look like that -- most of the time really." Steve Spurrier

Coach Spurrier made this comment about his University of South Carolina Gamecocks, but something about it rung true for me. Isn't it easy to settle for mediocrity? Being mediocre is a safe place to just cruise along and not necessarily get worse, but also not get any better. I can see, in my life, how I often settle for being mediocre in my job, with my family and with my God. Perhaps the effort to remain mediocre is just more appealing than the effort of going the extra mile. It definitely is easier to remain the same rather than change. Maybe I am just getting older?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Politcal Observations

I've had a couple of months in which I did not have really too much to talk about, so, I basically have passed on clips that I have found elsewhere. It was geared more towards the "loafing" side, but definitely not very creative. Rick has posted an excellent post on voting over at Good Coffee. Frustrated with the current state of politics, he is going to make a stand a simply vote blank at the polls. The best line is in his follow up post is that the politicians are telling us "what I want to hear" instead of "what you want to say."

Here are two observations about the state of elections

1. You gotta pick a Team: In America, nothing gets someone fired up like rooting for a team. And in politics, for all practical purposes, we have two teams. How do you know which team you should be on? Well, you have to determine if you are a liberal or a conservative: those labels describe the two ends of the scale, and if you really want to root for your team, you have to be on your team's side. It is, after all "Us versus Them."

2. You gotta learn everything you can about your guy and the other guy from media adds. Life is too busy, and your time is valuable. They can some up every thing that is right about your guy and everything that is wrong about the other guy in thirty seconds or less. And if you can not persuade about their guy, they will simply play to your fears. That way, all you have to remember about the other guys is that you are scared of the other guy.

Life tends to get busy, and many of us (hand is raised here) do not have much inclination to research the person who we end up voting for. But, here is what I am going to do.

  1. Make a list of the things that are important to me. Don't make it a list of "The Issues," but what, as a citizen of the United States of America, is important to your pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

  2. Ask yourself, how does "being" a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian etc, fulfill your pursuit of life, liberty and happiness? Have your past voting patterns been based solely on political affiliations or has it been based on what is on that list of yours?

  3. Find out who is going to be on the ballot. If they are an incumbent, dig around and see how they shake out on that list. I would advise digging a little deeper on their record because candidates voting records are often muddled by other items that have gotten attached to what they are voting for. No one said politics was clean.

  4. Find out what issues are going to be on the ballot. Virgina has amendment on the ballot this year for same sex marriage. I need to really think about why I would,or would not, want such an amendment to be made to my state's constitution. Unfortunately, many people already have their minds made up, and will never truly consider the issue until the day they walk in. I have settled it in my heart already, and perhaps I will write on that some more.

  5. Do not forget: The State is not it's government, it is it's People.

No one will fulfill all of your list. The people running are prone to mistakes, just like we are. But hopefully, there is someone who best represents your personal goals. Look for that person.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Day of Megan

Chuck and Cindy

Yesterday was the Day of Megan, essentially her birthday party. Megan can invite one friend and choose several activities to do. She invited a very nice girl and we went to Chuck-E-Cheese to throw down some pizza and then to Chilled Ponds for an hour of Ice Skating. I am so glad that my roller blading skills have transferred to the ice: only a few spills, but, I knew how to fall. Cindy fell hard on her shoulder and I was really worried about her. Katie, who had been hugging the boards the entire time, fell on her back and had to be assisted off the ice. But, no blood, no broken bones. And what goes with Ice Skating? Hot chocolate! Just Daddy's excuse to go to Starbucks. The final activity was decorating the birthday cake. The father of Megan's friend is from Uruguay and we were treated to a couple of birthday songs from their family's tradition. No one had problem falling asleep last night. Maybe a little sore and stiff, but definitely worn out.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Birthday Girl

Happy Birthday Megan. You have brought seven years of laughter into our home with your quick wit. Mom and I still do not know where you get your dancing skills from, but you have that ability to just flow. Enjoy your day, enjoy your weekend.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Family Reunion

This weekend was a quick trip down to South Carolina for a family reunion. After the event with our cat on Friday, I think we all needed a bit of distraction. And, in the end, that is exactly what it was. Saturday's reunion was based around the offspring of my Great-Grandfather. Unfortunately, I never new him, but I got a change to meet many of my second cousins. What was strange was I could see physical traits (especially in the face) that indicated that we were related. I wish that the event had been a little more of a mixer. It was held at a park, and we had a nice pavilion. We cooked hamburgers, introduced ourselves and then kind of gravitated to the people we knew. By three, we were packing up and heading home. I had met some new relatives, but, I did not feel like I go to know anyone.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


I was recently playing a city map called "Road to Jalalabad" in my game of choice "Battlefield 2." After choosing my kit, I joined a squad and introduced myself. The Squad Leader responded and we were off to the battle. The SL had a thick accent and he asked me were I was from. "USA, Virginia." His response was "Lucky. I am from Belgium."

At first, it was just neat to know that I was playing a game and talking to a guy from Belgium. We were seeing things in the virtual battlefield at the same time. But, what sunk in later was his response to where I live. "Lucky."

My experiences have taken me to various parts of the world, but nothing has touched me like what I saw in Malaysia. When I gripe about cable being out, I think of the hovels that our bus would pass on the way to work. They not only did not have cable, but they did not have heating, air, sewers and a host of other things that I never think about until they are broken. Even then, it may be only hours before it gets fixed. Yeah, I guess we are pretty lucky.

Friday, September 15, 2006


Today was not a day that I would not categorize as a red-lettered day. Our Burmese cat of fifteen years, Misty, had to be euthanized. She has had kidney problems for years that we had been treating with diet, but we had noticed  change in personality recently. After taking her in earlier this week, her blood results showed that her kidney problems had worsened, and it did not look good. The decision we made to have her euthanized was not easy.

We stayed with her in the room while the doctor shaved her arm to expose the vein. He injected the serum and by the time he had finished the syringe, Misty was gone. Her remains will be cremated and then either buried or put out into the ocean.

Thanks girl. We miss you.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Ship Hits The Fans

Ok, once you watch this trailer, you will see that I am not as clever as I want you to think I am. But still, I am totally blown away that the Star Trek project has been kept under wraps so well. This weekend, the TOS will begin airing again in High Definition with a re-recorded original score and new special effects.

Here is where you can breath a little easier:

1. The Opening Theme: This was re-recorded from the original score. It is "note perfect."

2. The Effects: There will be no fins, no barrel rolls. The shots have faithfully been recreated in the computer so that they will scale well with HD.

So, go get ready to get your Trek on.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Battlestar Galactica Webisodes

If you are counting down the days to the October premiere of Battlestar Galactica(IMHO, the best military Sci-Fi ever), then fire up your FTL Drives and Jump over to Sci Fi to watch some all new webisodes until the return. So say we all.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Friday, September 08, 2006

Happy 40th Star Trek

September 6th marked Star Trek's 40th Anniversary. Although, James and I never completed our pledge while rooming together (to watch every single one), I can not remember a time in my life without Trek. I am what you might call a "closet Trekkie." I would never dress up in costume and go to a convention, but, I would go to a convention. In fact, back in the late nineties (date is held to protect certain ploy specific details), James and I met in Raleigh, North Carolina to see the man himself, William Shatner. It was a blast, but, I learned that many people take it way more seriously than I did. Although the Star Trek renaissance (TNG, DS9, VOG and ENT) was entertaining, nothing matches the TOS (The Original Series).

The final frontier.
These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise.
Its five-year mission:
To explore strange new worlds;
To seek out new life and new civilizations;
To boldly go where no man has gone before.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

How It Should Have Ended

Warning: Do not watch while drinking milk.

A co-worker sent me to the site "How It Should Have Ended." It contains several animated short films that have alternate endings to some great movies. The Superman ending really cracked me up. Enjoy.

Saints vs Sinners

This comment came up in Bible study a few weeks ago, "We need to stop living like sinners saved by grace, and start living like saints dead to sin." This comment has been swimming in my mind since then and what is my attitude towards how I deal with sin. Coincidentally, this is my discipleship study topic for this week.

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our lord. - Romans 6:11

Star Trek TOS Redux

Came across a piece last week that Paramount will be transferring the original Star Trek series to glorious High Definition. In addition, the original optical shots will be replaced with digital fx. The cherry on the cake is...the first one will broadcast on September 16th. The show will be worked into syndication, replacing Enterprise.

You can read more about this at Aint It Cool News.

Monday, September 04, 2006

New Blogging Tool

I have been using Zoundary for several months now. I am not much into trying out new tools that come along, and Zoundary has served my needs for some time. This morning, I noticed that Zoundary has features for tracking clicks into products if you are interested with making some do-re-mi. Unfortunately, with a grand total of fifty six views last week, Creative Loafing is not targeted to this type of audience. While breezing through the Zoundary forums, someone asked about Microsoft's new Blogging tool "Live Writer."  So, I will use "Live Writer" over the next week and let you know what I think. And, btw, for a simple WSIWYG editor, Zoundary suffices. However, I have had a lot of errors posting to Blogger (Unicode coercion errors). Also, LJ has told me of some issues with inserting your own HTML. I thought I saw something in the forums that might help with this issue.

Steve Irwin Passes

This was not a great way to wake up. Steve "Crocodile Hunter" Irwin died after his heart was pierced by a stingray's lance. Typically, a stingray's toxin is not fatal, but in Steve's case, the stinger pierced his heart. As a family, we really enjoyed watching Steve's programs, and I wish the best to his wife, kids and family.

Thanks Ernie!

So, what do you know? Ol' Ernesto actually helped out with the lawn edging project. Ground that was rock hard, became quite pliable after three days of rain. I was able to use my spade to get the lawn edging tucked into the ground in about four hours. My dad and I made two trips to Lowes to get the rock, and I am about 3/4 done with the project. I need to look to see if I have any PFC piping laying around that I can drive into the ground to be my Tiki Torch holders.

Not that everything from Ernesto was great, he also pointed out where I had a leak in my house. So...on to the next project.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Honestly Ernesto

Already, some of the schools have been closed and my parents are delaying leaving South Carolina for the drive up. I am glad I drained the pool last night below the skimmer because this morning I awoke to find it above the skimmer (gotta go out in the rain again). My foot sank in one of the areas where the sprinkler man laid some new PVC, and I am thinking the ground will be too wet to use an Aerator on. To make matters worse, my Ximeta NetDisk decided to die. This was the storage drive for photographs taken over the years. I will have to make a decision how valuable they are to me because I might send this off to get recovered. But, on the bright side, it is Friday, Monday is a holiday and the Gamecocks shut out Mississippi State (clang clang clang).

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Dumbledore's Demise Not a Gandalf

MSN has posted a series of video's of author's reading from their works. J.K. Rawling read a bit from Half Blood Prince and then took some answers. She confirmed that Dumbledore will not pull a Gandalf. When questioned further, she plainly stated that Dumbledore is dead, and that the people over at will be greatly disappointed.

So, could he pull on OBI? Watch the video.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Star Wars: What has Changed?

I remember seeing Star Wars in 1977 and many times thereafter when it was re-released. I was thrilled in 1997 when it was re-released with the enhancements, but, once the charm of seeing the film on the big screen wore off, I hated the animation that they added. It sticks out like a sore thumb. Even with the 2004 release to DVD, Lucas still made some minor changes, but these were mostly unnoticeable (until you get to ROTJ).

2006 will be known in fandom as "the milking of the geeks." New Line will be releasing the "Lord of the Rings" Trilogy where the extended and theatrical release will be contained on one disc and you choose the version you want to watch. The Star Wars Episodes IV - VI will be re-released on September 12th with a "bonus" disc: the original version of the movies .So, if you are curious about the changes since 1977, here is are some comparative photos from the Star Wars web site.

Episode IV: What Has Changed?

Yard Work

I heard a comedian talking about how his dad is alway checking on the lawn. I think I am turning into one of those types of dad because, of late, the condition of my lawn has caused me some concern. Let me put it this way, if it weren't for the crabgrass, there would be very little green out there. I keep thinking to myself "how hard can growing grass actually be?" I am not looking for that pristine lawn that your neighbor probably has (unless you are that neighbor), I am just looking for grass that isn't crab.

The other project that I am doing outside is outlining our pool with lawn edging. Between the pool deck and the edging will be about two feet of white marble rocks. I have already done this around the pool pumps and it looks fantastic, but, best of all, it keeps the grass from growing right up to the pool deck. This of course means that I don't throw a ton of grass into the pool when I am cutting grass (or crabgrass). This project was supposed to be a "several week" project, but yesterday I went out, outlined where the edging would go and removed the grass that was growing nearby. Thinking that the hard part was over, I sent Cindy to Lowes to pick up the rest of the materials while I cleaned out the pool. As it turned out, the hardest part, digging a v-trench for the edging, lay ahead of me. Apparently, all of the loose soil that I remember from when they finished the pool has become nice and hard. After two hours of "digging" (I felt like it was chipping), I gave up. It was going on 5:30. If I was a contractor and I came across a problem like this, what would I do? I'm thinking power tool. So, I am going to swing by Sunbelt Rentals today to see if they have some kind of trencher that I can rent.

Seriously, how hard can it be?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

George Lucas Appreciation Society: Star Wars Shortened

Ok, mid-week laugh, you know you want one. So, for the George Lucas Appreciation Society's "Star Wars Shortened".

Also, head over to the Star Wars Website for "Life in 1977"


Eggads. Sometimes I read through Ricks lists without realizing that I just got tagged. Unfortunately, I am not as well read as either Rick or Todd, tending to lean more towards the Science Fiction/Fantasy side of literature.

1. One book that changed your life. THE DUMMIES GUIDE TO PROGRAMMING IN C++ (laugh all you will, but, this was the first book on programming that I owned and was but the footsteps to my current career. From Band Director to Programmer, that is definitely a change).

2. One book that you've read more than once. LORD OF THE RINGS, by J.R.R. Tolkien (I don't know if you guys knew this, but I was reading these books constantly in high school).

3. One book you'd want on a desert island. TREASURE ISLAND, by Robert Louis Stevenson (currently our after dinner read. What great writing).

4. One book that made you laugh. HITCH HIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, by Douglas Adams

5. One book that made you cry. HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE, by JK Rawling (At the end, where Harry is fighting Voldemort, and the last people killed by Voldemort's wand start appearing, including Harry's parents. I have desires in my heart to see departed family members)
6. One book that you wish had been written. THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO SLEEPING WITH YOUR EYES WIDE OPEN.

7. One book you wish had never been written. JUDE THE OBSCURE by Thomas Hardy (Not that it was a bad book, it's just I waited till the night before it was due to read it. I had an all night marathon session to get through it. Perhaps the start of my coffee addiction.

8. One book you're currently reading. A GAME OF THRONES, George R.R. Martin (Great Fantasy writers must have 2 R's in their name)

9. One book you've been meaning to read. WILD AT HEART, by John Elridge (I have started this book at least three times).

And, LJ, if you are reading....Consider yourself tagged!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Caption this Photo!

Make your funnies, but keep it clean.

A day in the life of Netflix

I just came across this article, "Tear, Slap, Clack" by Susan Sheehan on the New Yorker Web site. It describes a day in the life of a Netflix Associate at one of the distribution centers.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Bahama Mama Enema

Today was my last "summer friday" at work. During the summer, I get a half day every other friday. It's a great perk. I took the girls to "Ocean Breeze Water park" for an afternoon of water slides and wave pools. What a blast! I have not gotten on a slide since I was in middle school. Now, of course, I am really sore. There were two rides that really left an impression. The first was called the Hurricane: you drop down an enclosed tube and are deposited into what I can only describe as a sink. You spiral in the sink and finally are deposited through a hole in the center. It's fast, and you get disoriented quickly. The second was a long and fast ride called "The Bahama Mama." Before going down, you are instructed to cross your legs and cross your arms over your chest. The reason for crossing your legs became clear to me only after I received my "Bahama Mama Enema." Still, other than feeling really really clean now, we had a great time.

Seeking Answers

I sat in my car listening to the radio. Cindy had just left to take the kids into the church's child care. Half listening, half watching some carpet layers packing up for the day, I noticed a middle age woman enter the children's ministry wing. I didn't recognize her, but, with a church our size, that is not uncommon. Momentarily, Cindy exited the building talking with the woman. It was obvious that both of them were going to get into the car. Better turn down the radio a bit. Opening the door, Cindy smiled at me, and introduced the woman. She was visiting the church and looking for a bible study. What a coincidence, that's just where we were heading.

I drove to the other side of the building to jockey a parking spot closer to our bible study. Cindy introduced our guest to the class, while I got lost in the chit chat that typically occurs prior to getting started. As our teacher started making overtures that the class was about to begin, our guest asked a question. She made a reference to Matthew 23, about Jesus calling the Pharisees hypocrites because they say one thing, but do another. It turned out that, because she smoked, she had been called a hypocrite Christian. The question was passed around the classroom and it settled in the grace of God.

When we accept the grace of God through Jesus, it does not mean that we stop being sinners (but, we should not use that grace as a license for sin). We Christians can carry many burdens regarding our salvation, and I think that this is just a sly trick of Satan. If he can't take us with him, he is going to foul up our relationship with Christ the best way he can: make us doubt the sincerity of our faith. As soon as we finished praying for one another, our Guest got up and left. A quick remembrance of something she had to do called her away.

I sincerely hope that she found an answer.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Just Do It

Rickwell posted about becoming an "untool" earlier this week at Good Coffee. I came across a verse today where Paul in encouraging the Corinthians to "make good on" their words:

2Co 8:10-11 And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago. Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have.

How often do I start my day with God with good intentions of prayer, bible study but find myself distracted by my electronic newspaper? With everything we dedicate ourselves to in life, their has to be action that accompanies our words. For me, I talk a lot about developing a "personal" relationship with Christ. Christianity differs from other religions because salvation is purely based on a relationship and not by any ritual. It is not me burning a sacrifice, performing community services or even fighting to keep the environment from going up in smoke. It is not about attending church, it is not about playing in the orchestra at said church. It is about a relationship. So, how can I place more importance on developing that relationship when there is so much around to distract me?

To quote a famous marketing campaign: Just Do It! Keep me in your prayers.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Old Toys

We are preparing for our first Garage sale where the objective is to unload a lot of the stuff the kids have added to the home. Tonight, I climbed up into the attic, braving insulation and silver fish to bring down the boxes that were packed so long ago. Once down, we started rummaging through to see what we had. Some memories started to flow as I played with the Pooh Bear "Jack In the Box" that plays "Pop goes the Weasel." The girls discovered old Halloween costumes and stuffed toys that were once faithful companions. I can recall the feeling: as a child, old toys that you had not seen for such a long time became cool again. I just have to keep my eye on the objective. But, I might keep that Jack in the box

My Sweetie

I really love my wife Cindy. Over the past fourteen years, we have grown closer together than I have ever imagined. She has a sweet spirit and a servant's heart. Cindy knows when to offer suggestions and when to let me vent; she is a perfect sounding board. She doesn't laugh at me when I am being stupid, but she laughs at my stupid jokes. I am absolutely comfortable around her, even if I am uncomfortable with myself. My lack of self confidence is wiped away by the confidence she has in me. She is my help meet, and my best friend.

The Matrix

Ok, so I am many years behind this, so laugh if you will. I have never given a thought to the title of the Keanu Reeves movie "The Matrix." Not once, not even twice. Prior to the film's release, there was a marketing question that asked "What is the Matrix?" After seeing the film, we all had a good idea of what the matrix was.

So, this morning, I am doing my discipleship study (on giving), and came across Exodux 34:19 (KJV):
"All that openeth the matrix is mine;"

Hmm.Outside of the movie, I have always associated a matrix with an array. So, what does matrix mean in the Exodus context? It means womb. Applying this to the movie, the Matrix was also a Womb. Remembering Neo's"birth" scene, this sorta makes more sense now. Anyways, you could extend the whole womb metaphor because the Matrix was a "safe and happy" place for everyone going about their daily lives.
Well, I thought it was neat anyways.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Happy Birthday Adam

Today we got the chance to help the Robinson's celebrate their son's birthday. Hard to believe that Adam has turned nine. It only points out that Katie will be reaching that age in two more months. Yikes! Where did that time go? Both families went to Bush Gardens. It was probably one of the best outings to BG that I have had in many visits. Most special was lunch in the Fest Haus. Right as we sat down, the Fest Haus show started. The timing could have not been more perfect!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Some thoughts about Mel.

I really hate to see an actor that I really like hit the skids, and right now, I hate to see what has happened recently to Mel Gibson. To me, he will always be "Mad Max" more than "Braveheart" or the director of "The Passion of the Christ." I am sure that many will look at his alcoholism and his anti-semitic tirade and say "and this man claims to be a Christian? what a hypocrite!"

The past month, Pastor Jim has been teaching about God's Grace. There have been a few things that have come to mind today, things that I have jotted down in my notebook.

  • God does not require a person to do XY or Z. Zero, nada, nothing. Is that not a relief? God's Grace is a free gift, that only needs to be accepted (okay, so, that is the only thing that you have to do).
  • There is nothing that I can do that will cause God to love me any less than He does right now. So, when I mess up and swear at someone because I am mad, it doesn't dull the love God has for me.
  • Conversely, there is nothing that I can do that will make God love me any more.
  • Finally, and this is the hardest for me, there is no sin so awful that God can not forgive. This goes down paths that I can not even fathom, because I can imagine all sorts of evilness. But we all come to God in the same manner: a sinner. If there was something that he could not forgive, then where is the hope?

There is a perception that because a person is a Christian it means that they will never sin (or enjoy the effects of sin). Unfortunately, this is not true. Personally, I struggle with this in several areas. In Romans 6, Paul tells the church that they need to remember the image of the Baptism: that is, they died with Christ in baptism, and raised to walk a new life. Remembering this should help us to stand strong and make choices that do not yield our bodies to wickedness, but we still struggle, and we still fall. And through it all, God's Grace will cover me. And Mel.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Clutch Master

Just enjoying my new Racing Name, thanks to Sony Pictures and Talladega Nights!

Friday, July 28, 2006


I noticed that at Blockbuster and Netflix have a category for "Gay and Lesbian" movies. Doesn't that just seem weird to you? That a sexual orientation has its own category? It's kinda creepy.

"Watch ya wanna see tonight? Action? Horror? Comedy?"
"Nah, let's order a pizza and rent a Gay and Lesbian movie."

The Wedding Player

Yesterday, my wife played in a double string quartet for Kurt Bush's wedding. If, like me, you didn't know who Bush was, he is a Nascar driver. Cindy described the wedding ceremony, the house and the chaplain: everything was big. Lifestyles of the rich and famous.

The bride arrived in a white, horse-drawn Cinderella carriage and was walked down the aisle by her father, Gary Bryan, as an eight-piece ensemble played the wedding march.

The bride is no relation (at least that I know of).

Here is a link to the article on the People website.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Gamecock Football

Man, August is just right around the corner, and that can only mean one thing: Football! For me, College football is the best, and there ain't nothing like Gamecock football (the good years and the bad years). Already, I can feel the fever starting to boil up.

I just saw on EA Sports, that Carolina has a feature play in this year's play book. You can check out the video on the EA web site.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Friday, July 21, 2006

Star Wars Fan Film Award Winners

For the past several years, Atom films has sponsored the "Star Wars" Fan Film Awards. The winner is picked by none other than George Lucas. Here are this years winners:

  • George Lucas Selects -- Shane Felux, Pitching Lucas
  • Audience Choice Award -- Shane Felux, Pitching Lucas
  • Spirit of Fandom Award -- Michael Q. Yowhan, Memoirs of a Padawan
  • Best Comedy -- Brian Silva, Sith'd
  • Best Commercial Parody -- William Grammer, Blue Milk

You can view these at the Star Wars Fan Film Awards at Atom Films.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

My Amiga

Back in college, I worked in a movie theater. It was also the first time that I bought a computer (a Commodore Amiga 1000). My theater job helped me to pay for my computer. More in the spirit of the Macintosh than the PC (I love those new Apple commercials), the Amiga was a great machine. Near my house in Churchill Height, there was a store that sold and serviced Amigas. Time has erased the name of the store and employee names, but, I remember the owner. As a nineteen year old, I went and asked him if I could trade my Commodore 128 (this was a graduation gift) and then make up the difference with a weekly payment of $50.00. I was not unknown to the store. I had come there to shop software and had developed a friendship with the employees. Probably, what I did not know, is that I was a distraction, but, it helped them pass the time (they were not that busy). The owner sat down with me, looked me square in the eyes and said "don't burn me" and the deal was struck.

It some time to pay off the computer. I remember that it was hard to get enough hours at the theater to consistently make more than $50 dollars in a week, so I started doing odd jobs at the theater (repairing seats, helping the cleaning crew, receiving and stocking popcorn seed and my favorite, changing the marquee) to not only cover the computer, but to give me gas money. I also wrote my first computer program on the Amiga: it was a simple program that I used to change the marquee. I would type in the name of the movies that were leaving (as currently spelled on the marquee) and the names of the movies that were coming and the program would tell me which letters I needed to bring out to the sign.

My Amiga did not have a hard drive, but it did have two floppies. I had bought a "Genlock" device that allowed me to merge video signals (incidentally, I never really ever used it). I had the machine for many years (as measured in computer years), but she eventually gave up the ghost while I was in Japan. I should have kept it, but, I sold it "as is" to an Amiga enthusiast.

Since then, it seems like I have had many computers, but, none of them has meant anything to me. However, the Amiga did represent something deeper than just a computer. It was the owner's trust, it was hard work, and it was honoring commitments. That Amiga today still represents those first steps away from a band directing career, to the job that I am about to leave my home for. Thank you Jay Miner.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Alumni Band

There has been rumor that the Airport High School 20th Year reunion will be October 14th, 2006. I have gotten this from both Stacie and James, so it might be true. So, better go ahead and make sure that weekend is clear, just in case.

I was trying to figure out when USC Homecoming will be this year, and went to the USC Marching Band Home Page. That is where I found a great picture of me and my dad from last years homecoming. USC Homecoming is November 4th, 2006. So...any alumni from either group: plan now!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Back to Normal

So, the week off is over and it's back to the routine. Getting on the scales this morning, I have found some new friends that I will need to shake off, so, I am pulling out my points tracker and making sure I have time to exercise during the day. Luckily, this Friday is a half day for me, and Cindy and I are going out on a date Saturday night. Movie suggestions?

Sunday was all about getting the house running again. I had a wad of receipts in my wallet that needed to be entered into money (should have brought my PDA), and Cindy went out grocery shopping. We attended the 11:00 service yesterday at Atlantic Shores. Pastor Jim wasn't there, but Pastor Rob did an excellent message on God's Grace as shown in the parable of the prodigal son. I felt like yesterday was the first time in a long time that I was able to "step outside" of myself and just really worship God. Neat experience.

The Praise Team had new faces substituting for many of the staff that were on vacation. Beau sang the "Amazing Grace" version that Todd Agnew released last year ("Grace Like Rain"). Matt Redman's choruses are used quite a bit, and we sang "Nothing but the Blood."

Your blood speaks a better word
Than all the empty claims I've heard upon this earth
Speaks righteousness for me and stands in my defense
Jesus it's your blood

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Getting Lost yesterday led to my big ticket purchase yesterday: a Tom Tom 510 GPS device. You literally take it out of the box and it starts to work. It is nice that there are no associated subscription fees unless you opt for the "Plus" services. These services are neat, but require the use of a Bluetooth enabled phone as your data connection. One of the plus services is alerting you to traffic congestion in select cities (my area is one of them). However, since I do not own a compatible cell phone and my drive time to work is 5 minutes, I will not be using it for that.

I can see this gadget becoming a new favorite. No additional fees is an incredible plus, and I just realized how much I come to accept that any new device will have associated subscription fees. The manual is lacking, however, the device is fairly intutive and in no time, I was plotting a course to my friend's new house.

In comparing GPS systems to each other, they all seem to have similar features, but the Tom Tom had two that I really liked. The first was the 3D display. Instead of getting an overhead perspective, Tom Tom draws the map from your perspective, with your route going off into the horizon. This really helps with situation yourself with the device. The second thing feature I like is that you can download celebrity voices, such as Mr T. or John Cleese ("Turn Left Fool. I pity the Fool that gets lost").

Perhaps now, I can get to Borders.

It's a BF2 World

I have written about this before, but, I love the Battlefield series of computer games. I have met some really good friends from playing Battlefield, and some of these I have never met in real life. Ever since getting my Xbox 360, my play time has gone to zilch on the computer.

After getting lost, I stopped into Circuit City to shop for a GPS System and to find out how much getting my inlaws connected to broadband would cost. As it turns out, Hamburg NY is being connected with Verizon Fiber, and their Adelphia cable is becoming Comcast at the end of the month. Perhaps now is not the time to make a switch to broadband because there are some new options coming in a few short months.

So, I was talking with the Circuit City CSR about Fiber and relating a story that Henry, a verizon fiber customer, told me. Henry said that he can download a movie from Verizon and they will throttle open his connection full bore for 24 hours. So, during that 24 hours he can download like a mad man. And then I added, "or play the mess out of Battlefield 2."

I use words like mess as substitute words. Bill Cosby once had a skit about using replacement words because you don't want to swear in front of the kids ("What the filth flarn flarn filth are you doing?"). I can't turn it off.

The Circuit City employee immediately lit up and told me he played Battlefield, and immediately went to a terminal and brought up his stats. They were impressive. He asked for my nickname (Swampy*Fox, ala Francis Marion), and knowing that my stats stink, I considered giving him Paul's nick. But, I owned up to mine, and got invited to come over to play at a weekly gaming session that his group holds. Unfortunately, I can't, but thanks for the invite.


I hate to admit it, but I got lost yesterday. Sure, I can paint it with nice words by saying I got turned around, but no matter how I try to spin it, I was lost.

It started with everyone going in seperate directions for the morning. My father in law was teaching violin lessons all day, the kids were off to VBS and Cindy and her mom went shopping. That left me with free time.

After a quick call to my NY Pal Lorne and a skate around the neighborhood, I hopped in my car in search of a Borders bookstore. I had been there before on previous visits to Western NY, and was convinced that I was on the right path. However, once I started hitting toll roads and signs that said "4 miles to downtown Buffalo," I realized that I was not in Kansas anymore. I tried to backtrack, but missed some crucial turns and finally got off the interstate. Lost.

I called my mother in law for some advice, but, you know how that is. I had no idea were I was except a street name. So, I struck out east until I came to the town of Cheektawaga. There at the corner was Starbucks. Time for some liquid refreshment. The thing about Starbucks is that, compared to McDonalds, the Baristas genuinely appear happy to see you. I've been in them all along the east coast, and I don't think I've come across a crabby barista. So, I ordered my Verona, and casually asked, in my Sean Connery Voice (I love doing this voice), "So, Pretty Penny, how does a double-o agent get to Orchard Park." Luckily, I stuck the imitation, laughter ensued, and then they said, "wow, you must be lost." Returning back to Connery, "No, I am merely turned around."

So, armed with coffee, and set of directions and successfully found my way back. I did not get to Borders. But, I did get to Circuit City. Second best destination.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


I had forgotten how much fun fishing can be. Yesterday, Grandpa Hobart took us out to the town of Tonawanda with the Batman and Barbie fishing poles he gave the kids last year. Stopping at a local grocery store, we purchased bait from a vending machine and then found the location we had fished last year. We caught at least 6 brim and 1 small bass. Cindy and I would hook them, and let the kids reel them to shore where we released them back. Katie was thrilled with catching the bass because, according to her, it brings good luck.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Review: Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest

The stakes are established within the opening moments of the movie: William Turner is arrested on his wedding day to Elizabeth Swan for assisting in the liberation of Captain Jack Sparrow from the gallows. Like wise, Miss Swan is also arrested for her role in "Curse of the Black Pearl." Both face the gallows, unless, Turner recovers Jack's "broken" compass to the representative of the East India Trading Company. Meanwhile, Captain Jack is on a quest to recover a key that will open "Davey Jones' Locker." As it turns out, the only reason that Jack is a Captain is due to a deal that he made with Davey Jones, that expires after ten years. And now, Jack must pay his end of the bargain, and become part of Davey Jones' crew aboard the Flying Dutchman. By the time it is all over, Jack, William and Elizabeth are all seeking the contents of the Locker, each for their own reason.

This movie has three strikes against it.

The plot for "Dead Man's Chest" is not as straight forward as "Curse of the Black Pearl," and I found it to be more cumbersome and less fun than the original. Don't get me wrong, this movie is chock full of cool stuff: the crew of Davey Jones' Flying Dutchman, the Kraken and Davey Jones himself. I remember watching "Black Pearl" and thinking how much fun the movie was (from start to finish): it was swashbuckling fun! "Black Pearl" became really neat during the sword fight between Jack and William in the blacksmith's shop. Here was the blacksmith's apprentice crossing foils with a nefarious pirate on the run. But this was not just any pirate, it was a pirate who once captained the ship that was directly responsible for the Apprentice being in Port Royale. There was a interconnection between the two male characters that goes beyond what we saw on screen. They did not have to show that Will's father was the one man who stood up for Jack; they did not have to show Jack being stranded the first time on the rum runner's island, and they did not have to show Will's ship being attacked by the crew of the damned.

This leads me to my second stike against "Dead Man's Chest:" they had to show everything, and this made for a long movie.I guess when you are paying $8.00 to get in the door, this should not be a complaint, but, some scenes do not contribute to the overall goal of the movie. The entire cannibal scene, while funny, serves only to reunite Jack and William, but in the end, contributes nothing but an extra thirty minutes to the film. Elizabeth stows away on a ship and uses a dress to impersonate a phantom, only to get to Tortuga, was not needed. In fact, it was not really that funny. It was almost that they did not know what to do with her character until they give her the compass.

The final strike is that this is a "second chapter" movie and has the words "to be continued..." at the end. Ok, not literally, but I am not gonna ruin how they "wrote" those words. These movies can never stand on their own, and that's what I don't like about them. Off the bat, I think of Bakshi's "Lord of the Rings" and "Back to the Future II." I don't include "Empire Strikes Back" because this movie stands on it's own. It completes the story it started of to tell, but, it left threads open. I think what I liked least about Dead Man's Chest was that I did not know that this was going to "be continued." I remember the moment during the film that I though "they can not wrap this up, it's going to be continued." I prefer a self contained story.

Even though I did not like "Dead Man's Chest" as compared to "Curse of the Black Pearl" it is still a cool movie to watch on the big screen. It is funny and fun, just not as much as the first film. I did not like the cliff hanger, but, luckily, I only have to wait to next year to see the conclusion.

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

Finally, vacation. We are in Hamburg, New York this week enjoying some down time with the Inlaws, the Kids and my best friend, my wife.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

American Flag etiquette

I remember learning much of this while in the Air Force. I bet you can find examples all around your neighborhood, sports teams and newspaper adds that pretty much goes against proper flag etiquette.

Again, more from USA Flag Site

  • The flag should be lighted at all times, either by sunlight or by an appropriate light source.
  • The flag should be flown in fair weather, unless the flag is designed for inclement weather use.
  • The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing. It is flown upside down only as a distress signal.
  • The flag should not be used for any decoration in general. Bunting of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the bunting should be on the top.
  • The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use. Advertising signs should not be attached to the staff or halyard.
  • The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organizations.
  • The flag should never have any mark, insignia, letter, word, number, figure, or drawing of any kind placed on it, or attached to it.
  • The flag should never be used for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
  • When the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground or any other object; it should be received by waiting hands and arms. To store the flag it should be folded neatly and ceremoniously.
  • The flag should be cleaned and mended when necessary.
  • When a flag is so worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner.

More odds and ends:

During the ceremony of hoisting or lowering the flag or when the flag is passing in a parade or in review, all persons present except those in uniform should face the flag and stand at attention with the right hand over the heart. Those present in uniform should render the military salute. When not in uniform, men should remove the headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Aliens should stand at attention. The salute to the flag in a moving column should be rendered at the moment the flag passes.

During rendition of the national anthem when the flag is displayed, all present except those in uniform shall stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. Men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should render the military salute at the first note of the anthem and retain this position until the last note. When the flag is not displayed, those present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed there.

Star Spangled Banner, verse 4

From the USA Flag Site

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
(guess I can see why we don't sing that too often)

Happy Fourth of July

I believe that I won the lottery the day that I was born in the United States of America. I have been blessed to travel and live abroad and my love for this country has been shaped by what I have seen. So, today, on this 230th birthday of America, I encourage you to read the Declaration of Independence and make familiar once more the names of fifty six signers of the document that declared our independence from Great Britain.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

God Bless America.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Blast from the Past

Came across this picture tonight of Rick and I celebrating with friends at our Spanish Honor Society Fiesta. I believe this is circa 1985. How cool could we possibly be with those unbuttoned white "Spanish Honor Society" Oxfords? I bet we were wearing dock shoes as well (socks optional).

Game Widow

Thankfully, Cindy is not a total Game Widow because I have gotten better at managing my gaming time. But, here is a great article on including your spouse in gaming. Now, if I could get her to play BF2!!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Review: Superman Returns

Earlier this week I wrote about my anticipation of going to see Superman Returns, and I will sum it up as: "just plain fun!" Everything hinges on accepting Brandon Routh as Clark Kent/Superman, and he has some very big boots to fill. For me, Christopher Reeve was the iconic Superman. All of the television variants have been hit or miss (although I do like Smallville, it has been more like X-Files 90210). Routh simply looks fantastic as Superman. Vocally, he also sounded very similar to Reeve. Because this movie is a sequel to Superman: The Movie, Clark is played just as he was in the original, but not quite as naive. My favorite scene from Superman: The Movie was the helicopter sequence. This scene is essentially recreated, but instead of a helicopter, replace it with a 777 with a really big engine on top. What is cool about this scene is that you get a sense of scale and how powerful Superman truly is, something the original movies could never convey. I know much of this is CG, but it looks really good. I had just watched Matrix Reloaded this week because I remember that movie many main characters were animated during key sequences (the hurly burly fight scene comes to mind). When I saw the movie, this stuck out like a sore thumb and brought me out of the moment. Superman Returns uses a much higher degree of animation, but it kept me in the movie.

Superman Returns is rated PG13 for some Intense Action Violence. With X-Men III, I could walk away and definitely tell parents that they should go and see this before taking the kids (language and skin). I did not have any red flags. I can not recall cursing, though I know it is probably in there. Clark drinks a Bud (hey, he works hard), and Cindy's Spidey Senses tingled a few times. Because of that, I will go see this again with an eye toward the girls seeing it now or on video.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Identity Confusion

After purchasing my Superman Returns tickets at, I realized that I had not received a Best Buy Reward Certificate in a few months. Sure, that's a leap, unless you've purchased tickets online before and have been directed to the "$15.00 cash back" reward site for shopping at places like Best Buy. So, digging through my wallet for my membership card (ok, someone needs to make a "universal" membership card so we don't have to carry 10 cards in our wallet), I logged into the site, viewed my balance and then wrote a complaint that I have not seen any coupons. I went to my profile to verify the address and what do you know, it was my parent's address. So, my account has my email, my password, but my parents address. I called my Dad, and sure enough, he had purchased a Rewards membership when he purchased his digital camera, and somehow, Best Buy added his information to my account. I am used to the USPS confusing us, but, this is the first time it has happened with a merchant. Let's see how this works out.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Patriotic Trombones

Last night at Orchestra rehearsal, it dawned on me that I have been playing the trombone for 26 years. On my sixteenth birthday (celebrated by going to the swamps with George and Mr. Mace and then catching a sneak-preview of Gremlins with Jay at the Bush River part of that, besides the poster for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, was getting to drive home with my new license), I got the Conn 88-H that I still play today. I participated in marching band at Airport High School and the University of South Carolina and even majored in Music Education. During my Air Force days, I did not play that much, but still had my trombone with me in Japan. Once we settled into a church, we joined the Orchestra and I get to play at least twice a week (Wednesday Night and Sunday Morning). On the whole, I consider myself to be a decent enough player, and I enjoy what I am doing.

I was definitely never as good as these young ladies. So, to kick off the Fourth Of July weekend, here is a John Phillip Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever, as played by this fine Trombone Quartet.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Look, In the Sky!

You know, I am really looking forward to seeing Superman Returns on Friday. I have vivid memories of seeing Superman: The Movie with my sister at the Dutch Square Twin back in 1979. I never saw II or III in the theater, but, unfortunately, saw IV at the Columbia Mall Theaters. I knew that it was a cheap production because it was produced by Golan and Globus (King Solomon's Mines), written by Christopher Reeve (red flag here) and...the nail in the coffin, music arranged by Alexander Courage (Star Trek) based on John Williams original score for Superman: The Movie. For you non-musicians, let me break that last one down: the made the music from the first film fit the movie. Basically, Jay and I did this with Indiana Jr and the Eggs of Doom (if you missed it, you have missed out on one of the greatest adventure films of all time). If I knew there was a real job there, maybe I wouldn't be in Va right now. What a horrible way to end a series.

But, comic book fans fall into one of two camps: DC or Marvel. I usually stand in the DC camp, but I still love Spiderman, Captain America and The Hulk. I really liked the direction that Batman Begins took. It was gritty and realistic. It did not feel like plastic, and that was my major problem with X-Men III: it just didn't feel right, and it definitely did not do justice to the source material. But, Superman takes a special place for me. It was the first comic that my Grand Daddy Bryan bought for me (I still have it) and was the first comic that I bought when I started collecting in college. I never liked when they messed with the formula: when they tried to update him and make him more modern. With the cynicism that comes with age, there was something innocent and charming about "Truth, Justice and the American Way" even if all three of those vary greatly depending on your point of view.

So, I am hoping that Superman Returns brings some of that charm back. We certainly need it.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Side of Brunch, Without the Brunch Please

During my recent trip to SC, James, Frog and I went to the Vista to take in some brunch. Guess what? No brunch on the Vista! We ended up having a breakfast at the "Ye Olde" IHOP. Somehow, brunch just sounds nice: not quite lunch, not exactly breakfast. Brunch. Mmmm. However, IHOP conjures images of stuffing people into boothes and cramming your mouth full. After Brunch, your pants can still buckle; after IHOP, you are going for the sweatpants. Perhaps next time, I'll put my trusty Google to use, or at least get recommendations from the cashier at IHOP.